When most people think of older women reading, book clubs and Danielle Steele novels probably come to mind. What likely doesn’t come to mind is that women over the age of 45 actually make up the backbone of book sales, especially in these last few years. And yet, the market is more and more saturated by the day with books that center on teens and twenty-somethings stumbling through life, saving the world, or dealing with frightening dystopias that our terrifying world seems to get closer to being every day.
Older women and women-identifying individuals deserve more representation in literature. Although literary fiction often does take the time to focus on people older than 30, the struggles that older women face are often not the focus of these narratives. While women over 45 in real life deal with menopause, empty nests, divorces or difficulty with finances, all the literary world often has to offer in return is younger women just barely making their mark on a brand new world. And while many read literature to escape from the reality of the world, or reminisce on these days when we, too, were once so fresh-faced and spry, representation of all sorts is especially important — now more than ever as representation of all forms becomes an increasingly important topic.
Too often, when we see older women represented in literature, they are old crones, witches or crotchety old women who are often avoided. In my own reading excursions, I need to search long and hard to find science-fiction, fantasy or even contemporary novels that feature older women who are doing remarkable things; I have always come up, sadly, quite empty.
I may be writing this as a twenty-something myself, but I would love to read more stories featuring older women navigating their way through life. With the greater and greater push these days to make something of yourself before you cross the threshold of 25, the need for stories by and about older women has become more important than ever. Books about mothers dealing with the fact that their children have moved out and grown up. Books about a years-long marriage ending and navigating the dating scene as an older woman. Books about older women changing careers, discovering new passions and doing all the things that we see teens and twenty-year-olds doing in literature every single day.
We owe a lot to the older women in our world. The world deserves more stories about older women saving the world, riding dragons or finding new or rekindled love. Older women who are picking up books to talk about with their friends or to engage with their grandchildren deserve to get some love on the page as well. The literary world should offer a space for stories with characters who are middle-aged and older, and give these women a story that they can relate to.